Book review: All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I have struggled and struggled with this review – I started writing it weeks and weeks ago (months actually) and I’ve written and rewritten paragraphs, deleted sentences and whole sections, and given up many a time only to come back a few days or weeks later.

Because how do you review such a brilliant and brutal book like Courtney Summers’ All the Rage?

Romy Grey wouldn’t stand out from any other teenagers in her town if it wasn’t for the fact that she accused the sheriff’s son Kellan Turner of raping her. No one believed her, so now Romy takes refuge at her after school job in a diner where no one knows about her past. When a girl from her school goes missing, Romy suspects she knows what has happened, and she has to decide whether to take action to help, at the risk of becoming even more of an outcast.

Consent, justice and memory are all dealt with by Summers in All the Rage. We meet the tough, prickly, fierce Romy, and root for her from beginning to end. Her every word and action shows someone who has survived and who is still fighting in small ways, even though she may think she’s hiding away. Just getting up, going to school, going to work, interacting with people is a huge battle for Romy, but she does it.

Summers captures how life changes in myriad small ways, as well as huge ones, after being sexually assaulted. There is Romy’s constant suspicion about men, the way she has to physically steel herself before leaving the house. The most visual representation of Romy’s attack is the way she arms herself against others by choosing to wear blood red lipstick whenever she leaves the house – the lipstick is both protective armour, and a reminder of what she’s been through, the red representing her anger and loss and the blood that was evidence of her assault. If her lipstick is spoiled, it means something has gone wrong, but as long as it’s perfect Romy can face the world. Perfection is something Romy is striving for throughout All the Rage. Of course, no one is perfect, regardless of what has happened to them, and All the Rage is the story of how Romy comes to realise she has nothing to make up for, that she doesn’t need to strive for perfection, or to be afraid to trust people again, although of course the latter is an ongoing exercise.

All the Rage is an extraordinary book, and it comes at a time when discussions about feminism and consent never seem to be very far away. Reading it I felt angry and sad, yet also hopeful that such a book can exist to inform and inspire young girls to speak out and speak up, and not be ashamed of being a woman, or of ever thinking that they are at fault for an attack against them. Like Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, I want to press this book into the hands of young people everywhere.

How I got this book: From the publisher, Macmillan Children’s Books. This did not affect my review.

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